VENTED MUD FLAPS (TRAILERS)
A variety of mud flap alternatives have been on the market for many years offering improved aerodynamic performance and fuel savings. The consensus is that these devices should be beneficial but the amount of fuel saved is hard to determine in individual tests.
Vented mud flaps are designed with holes or other means of allowing air to flow through while maintaining the function of lowering water spray and deflecting other objects.
Many different designs are commercially available and adoption is growing significantly.
This list represents some manufacturers of vented mud flaps but it has not been vetted to ensure product availability.
COMMON FLEET STRATEGIES
Each area of the trailer represents an opportunity to reduce aerodynamic drag.
Both industry and government aerodynamicists have shown that the maximum aerodynamic improvement comes from a combination of sealing the tractor/trailer gap, sealing the trailer underbody, and adding a boat tail.
As each device is added, the performance of other devices will be impacted. The airflow over each device changes the operating conditions for the other devices. The performance of a combination of devices will not simply be the additive total of each device operating alone. However the greatest aerodynamic drag reduction comes from using devices in three main areas: gap, underbody, and rear. Addressing the aerodynamics of all three points of drag should give the greatest fuel savings for the vast majority of fleets.
WHAT FLEETS ARE SAYING
The overall perception of the savings offered by trailer aerodynamics is positive. “They are really effective devices now,” one fleet owner said.
Fleets stated that aerodynamic device construction, design, and materials have all vastly improved in the past five to seven years. They have become lighter and more robust.
Some fleets feel that drivers have become more accustomed to having aerodynamic devices on trailers and when combined with fuel economy incentive programs, actually appreciate having them.
Fleets were uniform in stating that the devices should “require no driver intervention.” One fleet owner said, “Any statement that starts with ‘All the driver has to do is…’ should be questioned.”
Fleets have been investing in trailer skirts as their first choice for aerodynamic improvements. However, now having done that they are looking at the next steps and are debating the merits of tails versus other options.
The study team developed several tools to help fleets make their decision about trailer aerodynamic devices.
- The Confidence Matrix, below, is used to inform fleets of the study team’s confidence in the technology being studied vs. the payback the fleet should expect to receive from the technology
- An appendix of SmartWay verified trailer aerodynamic devices, found at the end of the full Confidence Report
- A simple payback calculator, shown below, has been developed for aerodynamic devices
• There is significant data showing fuel savings for the various trailer aerodynamic devices. The priority for device adoption by fleets is skirts, tails, front, and then other devices.